Eugene Richards: Serbs and Magazines


I just got the Phaidon 55 book of photos by Eugene Richards, with a searing introductory text by Chuck Bowden. The two men have worked together and are working together in Richards’ Brooklyn house. Richards is choosing 55 photos for the book. Bowden is writing about Richards and his 55 photos: “A friend touches the hair of his mentally ill son. Gene gives him the picture and the friend says, ‘That is not a nice picture. But it is true.’ . . . A woman in a kitchen and he says, ‘This is the story that got me fired.’ He says, ‘Take this check and shove it up your ass.'”

Every photo in the book has an accompanying text: (previous page) Funeral for Eddie Collins, Forrest City, Arkansas, 1971, followed by a statement that always begins with “and” (no capital letter, no period — there is the photograph, and there is an addendum of words that don’t end): “and they’re getting maybe fifty cents for carrying the stiff, the trees stand bare, the hats and coats look solid and down and then the guy turns, flashes that smile, and you suddenly believe in your work because you have seen life and caught life at the burying ground”


I come to the image on page 75 and to its accompanying statement. I have worked for years to explain that although they too were aggressors in the civil wars that destroyed Yugoslavia, Serbs are people — but because they are Serbs, for the magazine and for the world, their pain is of no account.

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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